It’s not unusual for someone facing a criminal charge to make the foolish decision of absconding, which is the legal word for leaving before the case is finished, while on bond for a criminal charge in Florida. The reasons for leaving don’t always have to do with fear of punishment, but may include being overwhelmed by the pending criminal court case. Yet even the best reason or motive one may have had for leaving will be of little importance if Florida finds the absconder and begins the process of extradition.

The first important consideration is whether the case was resolved or unresolved when the defendant absconded. If the defendant plead guilty or was convicted by a jury, then the case was resolved and the defendant was waiting for sentencing. But if the defendant has not been found guilty of the offense, then the case remains unresolved and is very much still pending. 

In cases that are unresolved the Defendant’s absconding will trigger a review of the file by prosecutors to determine if the case is still viable. The criteria of viability is whether prosecutors are persuaded that the case is still winnable at trial, which is the same criteria prosecutors use in making an initial filing decision. Factors prosecutors will look to include availability of evidence and witnesses.

In a sense the case begins again. Yet it’s unlikely that a judge will grant any kind of bond while the case is pending because of the failure to appear. The only way a bond would likely be issued is if the defendant turned himself in or the defendant’s counsel can establish to the court that the case involves a nonviolent crime, that the defendant is not a threat to run again or that the case if very weak. 

Having looked at unresolved criminal cases, let’s look at resolved criminal cases in which the defendant absconded before either pleading guilty or bing found guilty at trial. Here are several factors that a judge might take into account in determine what an appropriate sentence would now be if the case was resolved before flight where the only issue is what the sentence will be rather than guilt or innocence. 

First, the court will look at the underlying Florida scoresheet and guidelines to determine what the guideline range was at the time as a baseline for sentencing. This will not necessarily be the limit of possible prison time in that other factors will also be looked at.

Second, the court will add any points for additional charges. One typical charge that prosecutors may file is simply an escape charge. Escape would typically be filed if a defendant plead or was found guilty at trial but absconded before the sentencing date. An escape charge will not only add more prison time, but make whatever time is served much more stringent.

Third, the court will look at what the defendant was doing while away. Was the defendant a model citizen in the community or was he arrested on other charges during the time he absconded?

As you can see if you have a resolved or unresolved pending criminal case in Florida, it’s important to consider all of the consequences with a criminal defense lawyer before returning to Florida.


What should you do if you find you have an active arrest warrant issued from another state? Here’s a question your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer was recently asked:

I’m very scared of being arrested for something I didn’t do. What happens when another state issues an arrest warrant? I moved to Florida several years ago. I’ve just found out that there is a felony arrest warrant for Fraud or Scheme to Defraud in Atlanta, Georgia. From what I can figure out the warrant was issued from the company I used to work for and is a misunderstanding that I thought was already cleared up and I have the paperwork to prove it.  Will Florida police arrest me for this? If I’m innocent can I resist the arrest? What should I do?

even great oarsmen can't escape an out of state warrant  as the warrant  will be honored in Tampa BayFlorida
Renoir,  The Oarsmen, 1879

You may think it was just a ‘misunderstanding’ in Georgia, I hope for your sake you’re right, but a Georgia Judge signed an arrest warrant based on probable cause that you committed Felony Fraud in Georgia. You’ll need to hire an attorney in Georgia to persuade the prosecutor that the criminal case against you should be dismissed. Prosecutors in Georgia will not likely look into your case until after you turn yourself in, make a court appearance and only then will you be allowed to seek a bond. 
If you choose not to turn yourself in to Georgia authorities, then you need to understand that at anytime you may be stopped by Tampa Bay Police and arrested in Florida as an arrest warrant from another state will be honored by Florida law enforcement. 
Although it’s true that you can resist an unlawful arrest in Florida without using violence, a Florida arrest based on a warrant from Georgia will be deemed lawful and any attempt to resist the arrest will result in Florida criminal charges of resisting arrest without violence.  
If you are arrested under the Georgia warrant in Florida, you will be kept in detention without a bond as you’ll be deemed a flight risk. Instead Florida will contact Georgia to determine if Georgia wants you to be extradited back to Georgia to face the Felony Fraud charge. In Florida you will be given an extradition hearing to determine if Georgia has the right bring you back and that you are the person whom Georgia seeks with matching fingerprints or DNA. At an extradition hearing a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney could argue any false identity issues, but will not be permitted to argue the underlying merits of the Felony Fraud or Scheme to Defraud case against you nor your innocence as those issues are for a Georgia Court to determine. 
The smartest thing for you to do is not to wait for the arrest warrant to come to you, rather you must go to it by cleaning up the matter in Georgia immediately.